“Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports.”
[From a recent presidential account of the American Revolution]
Listen, my children, and you will hear
Of the red-eye flight of Paul Revere.
On a humid, hot, and sticky night,
Having shown up two hours before his flight,
He had to get to Gate C9
After spending an hour and a half in line.
He said, “Hardly anyone still alive
Would rather go through this than drive.”
Only when he reached the font of the crowd
Did he learn how many bags were allowed:
“One if by land, two if by sea,
But you’re going by air, so there is a small fee.”
So he paid the fee and checked his bags,
And the baggage clerk affixed the tags.
But before he could be on his way,
He had to pass the TSA,
Who made him take off his belt and shoes
And his tricorn hat before he went through,
But still the metal detector buzzed
And he had to deal with the rent-a-fuzz,
Who said to him, “Now listen here, sport,
Who wears brass buttons to the airport?”
They took him to chamber where
They stripped him to his underwear,
And inch by inch, with latexed hand
Confirmed he had no contraband.
They let him go, in Concourse C
The clock on the wall read 12:03.
To make his flight, he would have to run
Past the Starbucks and the Cinnabon,
And zip right past the Chik-Fil-A
(not that he ate there anyway),
Past the Dairy Queen, the Burger King,
The Buffalo with Wild Wings,
The newsstand and the duty-free,
The shoeshine and the Mickey D’s
The T.G.I. Friday’s, the P.F. Chang,
The V.I.P. Club, the Sturm & Drang’s
The Taco Bell, the Einstein Brothers,
The Jamba Juice…and many others.
And when he reached his gate at last
And handed over his boarding pass
His breath was short; his shirt was wet,
And all his body soaked in sweat;
His coat was torn, his cravat askew,
And the sole was flopping off one shoe.
A woman standing at the gate
Explained, “You’re nearly an hour late.”
“So I missed my flight?” he asked. “What? No—
We just started boarding the first five rows.”
So he waited in line, and he shuffled his feet
And finally boarded, and took his seat
In front of a boy with spiked blond hair
Who kicked the seat all the way to O’Hare.
Read the rest of the poem here.
Click here to read the rest of “What Work Is” by Philip Levine, or here for other Labor Day poems.
Read the rest of the poem, and several others, here.
Colors on featured image by Rachel Young